WMU News

Maritime history exhibit on display at Waldo Library

Dec. 9, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- An exhibit that explores the maritime history of Holland, Mich., is on display at Western Michigan University's Waldo Library through the end of January.

"Holland: A Vision of Lakeshore Prosperity" is the first exhibit organized by the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies. Organized as part of Holland's sesquicentennial this year, it first opened at the Holland Museum in October. After its stay on campus, the exhibit will travel to schools, malls, corporate facilities and trade shows in West Michigan.

The exhibit was funded by private donations and is owned by the Holland Museum. The materials were assembled by WMU graduate student Paula Lange, who worked with Dr. Kristin Szylvian, WMU assistant professor of history. The entire project was done under the auspices of the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies, a partnership between WMU and the Michigan Maritime Museum launched earlier this year.

The exhibit spans 150 years of Holland's use of its lakeshore location for leisure and economic advantage. Using drawings, advertisements and photographs, the exhibit traces Holland's history as a trading, shipbuilding, shipping and tourism power in Michigan. By working closely with community members, Lange was able to secure a number of previously unpublished photographs.

"People invited me into their homes, talked and talked about what Holland was like years ago and shared their family photographs with me," Lange says. "One contact often led to another and I discovered a small community of people who are deeply interested in the history of the area."

Lange, who is working on a master's degree with a concentration in public and women's history, did the major work on the exhibit as a graduate assistant during the winter semester and spring session. Once the materials were assembled, the exhibit panels were fabricated by staff members at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

"The exhibit received a favorable reaction in Holland," Szylvian reports. "Much of the exhibit focuses on 20th century history, people, places and things. People had direct recollection of many areas depicted and the exhibit prompted some fond memories."

Szylvian reports that the exhibit opening in Holland revealed intense community interest, particularly in Holland's maritime leisure activities over the years. That response, she says, may help set the tone for some of the center's future maritime history projects involving other lakeshore communities.

The exhibit is located on the third floor of Waldo Library in the rotunda area and is open for viewing during the library's regular hours of operation. Visitors should call (616) 387-5155 for library hours.

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
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